Kentucky starts to recover from flooding, aided by $25,000 donation from AVMF

The people and animals of eastern Kentucky are continuing to cope with the aftermath of the flooding that struck from the end of July through the beginning of August.

In the wake of the flooding, the American Veterinary Medical Foundation launched a fundraising effort to support the state’s veterinary community. The AVMF committed a gift of $25,000 to the Kentucky VMA Foundation to support people providing animals with emergency veterinary care, food, boarding, and supplies.

In an Aug. 4 announcement about the fundraising effort, Dr. José Arce, president of the AVMF, said: “Shelters in the stricken areas are overwhelmed and many veterinarians are doing pro bono work for those that lost their homes and have pets that are injured and in need of care. We encourage you to join us in supporting our colleagues and animal owners in Kentucky during this time of great need.”

2022 Kentucky flood
An aerial view of flooding on July 29 in Eastern Kentucky (Courtesy of the Kentucky governor’s office)

Dr. Warren J. Hess, AVMA disaster coordinator and an associate director in the AVMA Division of Animal and Public Health, participates in calls organized by the National Animal Rescue & Sheltering Coalition with national, state, and local involved parties. As of Aug. 5, he said, “Reports on the ground indicate that things are still pretty crazy, with preexisting animal shelters struggling to deal with their structures being impacted by water while simultaneously dealing with large increases of intakes and also with large quantities of donations, mostly food.”

Dr. Hess said one family lost everything, with their home and all their belongings washed away, but they found their cat at a shelter and were reunited.

Debra Hamelback, Kentucky VMA executive director, said, “On behalf of the KVMA, our veterinary community is very grateful for the donation from the AVMA Foundation to help with the ongoing needs caused by the devastating floods in eastern Kentucky.”

The donation has allowed veterinarians to triage, treat, and house animals that were injured or sick at no cost to owners who have lost their homes and their possessions, Hamelback said. As of Aug. 17, efforts were focused on treatment for animals still being found along with assisting shelters.

“Our veterinary teams in eastern Kentucky have been working tirelessly alongside the local communities providing care and treatments round the clock for animals,” Hamelback said. “The needs of the people and animals of Appalachia will be ongoing for several months, if not years.

“KVMA also wants to sincerely thank all of the national organizations for their ongoing assistance, donations, and boots-on-the-ground volunteer endeavors. Their assistance has been tremendously appreciated by those that have been impacted, along with our state officials working with the animal recovery efforts.”

Dr. Hess agreed that there will be a long recovery period for the people impacted because many of them no longer have a home.

“They were washed away from their property,” Dr. Hess said. “Some are camping out in tents on their property trying to restart the building process or trying to protect anything left on their property.”

As of Aug. 17, animals were still being sheltered with their owners at a couple of emergency shelters, and most of the county and city animal shelters still standing were full of both owned and stray animals Responders were reporting skin problems on all kinds of animals because of water exposure and the subsequent high humidity.

KVMA is coordinating small animal issues, and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture is coordinating large animal issues.

The AVMF accepts donations via its website. The website also provides information about AVMF grants for veterinarians impacted by disasters and for veterinarians who provide care to animals impacted by disasters.

The KVMA Foundation is continuing to accept donations that will go directly toward veterinary care of animals in the affected areas. Donations may be sent to KVMA Foundation, 108 Consumer Lane, Frankfort, KY 40601.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear has established the Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund. Donations may be made online to assist people impacted by the floods.

A version of this article appears in the September 2022 print issue of JAVMA.